Posted: Sat 13th Jun 2020

Dee Estuary whale – rescue team ‘realistic about the animal’s chances of survival’

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Jun 13th, 2020

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Update: On Saturday evening the whale refloated and was seen swimming in the River Dee towards open water, this morning the British Divers Marine Life Rescuers commented on their Facebook page that as of 9.15 there had been me sightings of the whale. 

Earlier report: Rescuers say they have to be “absolutely realistic” about a whales chances of survival after it became stranded in the River Dee for the second time.

The 30ft long whale which became stranded close to Greenfield Docks remains on a sandbank.

The juvenile fin whale was discovered on Friday morning ‘high and dry’ on the sandbank in the River Dee near Greenfield. 

Local fishermen joined British Divers Marine Life Rescuers who managed to released the 14-tonne whale back into the sea following high tide.

After it was refloated it spent some time reorienting itself in the estuary, circling the rescuer’s boat before gaining strength and swimming out towards open water.

Sadly the fin whale was again seen swimming in the Dee Estuary last night and this morning it has been found restranded in the same area as yesterday.

Medics from British Divers Marine Life Rescue along with the Flint Coastguard, RNLI Flint and local people been working hard providing first aid to the whale throughout today.

In a post on the British Divers Marine Life Rescue Facebook page, a spokesperson said: 

“It is stranded a long way from the shore and the main channel of the estuary with the tide out most of the time so it has been an exhausting effort.

A water pump was employed to help relay water from the channel closer to the whale so Medics could gather buckets of water to help keep its skin wet so it didn’t dry out and cause further discomfort, while thin sheets have been put over its back to help make it comfortable, but there is not a great deal else that could be done.

The breathing rate was quite high for some time but gradually calmed down to a more normal rate, though it seemed less responsive in itself than it did yesterday. The tide has now come in once again so our team have withdrawn to safety.

The whale is still alive and it will be monitored from the boat and the shore.

It is critical to understand how difficult this situation is.

A whale of this size would weigh approximately 14 tonnes and it cannot simply be dragged by heavy machinery or lifted by a crane or helicopter.

These methods could easily cause severe injury as well as induce severe stress, panic and shock that could lead to its death.

Although we want to be optimistic, we have to be absolutely realistic about the animal’s chances of survival at this point.

It has spent several hours out of the water gradually being crushed under its own weight over the last couple of days and the degree of internal damage this may have caused could be very significant by now.

Even if it does swim off again this evening there is a high chance that it will restrand and/or pass away as a result.

Its been a very long and tough day for our team so we would like to thank them for their efforts as well as the local Coastguard and RNLI team and local residents, as well as North Wales Police who have had to control crowds and prevent people from coming into the dangerous estuary to get closer to the whale.

Everyone has worked together as an amazing team throughout and once again all we can do is watch and wait.”

Flint Coastguard was asked to assist in crowd safety as people flocked to the location, a spokesperson said: 

“Once on scene it was estimated that approximately 100 persons were on the shoreline with more still arriving.

Within 15 minutes a male and child were seen to leave shore and proceed to walk out across the sand banks towards the whale and then another 2 males were reported also making their way across the sand and mud.

The Officer in Charge requested the immediate assistance from Rhyl Coastguard Rescue Team due to the incoming tide and the possibility of them becoming stuck in mud.

Two members from Flint rescue team were kitted up in full water rescue kit and proceeded to intercept and advise all people to return to shore immediately.

North Wales Police were also on scene to control crowds and prevent further persons entering the sandbanks and water.”

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue is a charity relies heavily relies on donations to carry out the work and training it does to help marine mammals all over the UK.

Donations can be made on JustGiving via the following link:

Photos: Gem Simmons.

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